Education November 16, 2021 / By Joanne Foster, EdD

There are different ways of moving forward. Help children do so vigorously, proactively, and sensibly. Here’s how.

Setting the Stage by Way of the Setting Sun…

Let’s say you want to take a picture of the sunset, and you can capture its beauty right outside your door or from your apartment balcony. Then you are fortunate.

However, if you want to take a photo of the sun setting over a lake, or glistening on a mountain, or reflecting across desert sands, then you’ll likely have to go that extra mile or more (literally) to find and seize the image you envision. You can frame the scene. You discover it, make it your own, and create a picture that’s uniquely yours.

It’s important not to settle but to be willing to stretch boundaries, to be adventuresome, to try new techniques, to welcome tenacity, and to go beyond what’s conventional or convenient. And it’s important to teach children to do likewise.

Extending Parameters and Being Tenacious

“I'm through accepting limits 'cause someone says they're so,
Some things I cannot change, but 'til I try, I'll never know!”

~ Defying Gravity, from the Broadway Show Wicked (Stephen Schwartz, Composer)

How can parents realistically “push limits” when trying to provide their children with the best possible supports and learning opportunities? A lake, mountain, or desert may not be accessible. What resources can parents seek and find? What learning experiences can they offer that might be a suitable match for their child’s learning needs? What’s practical? What motivates mind, body, and spirit? What fits the family dynamic? What compromises are necessary? These are all legitimate questions, and each is worth pondering.

Finding an “Optimal Match”—that is, an appropriate alignment between learning provisions and an individual learner’s wants and needs—requires effort, resourcefulness, and a search for alternatives. This may not necessarily be easy or convenient. However, an Optimal Match approach will help a child learn more expansively and become more welcoming of creative possibilities. (Find out more in Being Smart about Gifted Learning.) Parents can help children realize that developing and expanding their skills and range of knowledge is empowering, and that robust, exhilarating, and unconventional possibilities for learning are everywhere.

Parents can also demonstrate that they recognize the value of stretching horizons and tackling new kinds of opportunities and challenges by indicating that they’re openminded and willing to explore options, and by conveying that they’re up for the task—that they’re tenacious, too.

Embracing Tenacity!

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”

~ Louis Pasteur, Scientist

Parents who are tenacious are well positioned to share a valuable lesson with their kids. That’s because tenacity propels advancement. It’s an accelerant for the pursuit of wonderment and productivity. Tenacity is that dogged determination that fuels “wanting to know.” And, tenacity aligns with purpose, which in turn activates momentum.

Parents can teach kids about tenacity, including how to moderate it so that it’s not too forceful, but rather so it’s motivating and encouraging. Tenacity has advantages. For example, it’s enabling. It can prevent lost opportunities. It builds character. It helps kids learn to take responsibility for their choices, consequences, actions, and outcomes.

Tenacity involves participation and commitment. Parents can model this by showing resolve, resilience, and perseverance—and by going beyond the status quo (or what’s convenient) as they support children’s learning. It helps if parents appreciate that what’s inopportune may ultimately be more opportune in the whole scheme of things!

Strategies: Applying Tenacity to Every-Day Life

Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.”

~ Thomas Huxley, Scientist

Here are several sensible ways parents can stretch learning parameters for and with their children, while simultaneously nurturing children’s tenacity.

  1. Teach kids to figure out what they need or want to do and learn. What steps will they take? What preparation is required? What outcomes do they hope to achieve? Can they visualize success? (“Visualize this thing that you want; see it, feel it, believe it. Make your mental blue-print, and begin to build.” ~ Robert Collier, Author)
  2. Reinforce courage, self-assurance, and reasonable risk-taking.
  3. Model reflective habits of mind—including how to think broadly, flexibly, creatively, and astutely, and how to negotiate and compromise.
  4. Welcome choice, children’s self-selection of learning experiences, and the innovative integration of their areas of interest.
  5. Talk about how challenge and change can be windows of opportunity. Model how resilience, patience, and conviction can help people succeed.
  6. Enable children to work with varied materials, instruments, or “stuff” under different conditions, in different environments, and with different people.
  7. Help kids think imaginatively about how to reframe a situation or activity so it becomes more appealing, interesting, or conducive for their learning—even if it’s not convenient or requires considerable effort.
  8. Celebrate children’s curiosity, effort, and tenacity—small steps and accomplishments as well as big ones.

Last Words

Fortune befriends the bold.”

~ Emily Dickinson, Poet

Each person decides what to strive for and what to settle on. Encourage children to be tenacious, and to be trailblazers—to see and take pictures of as many intriguing sunsets (or sunrises, cloud formations, rainbows, or anything else) as possible. Or, maybe they aspire to learn a new language, write a book, volunteer, play an instrument, find an online mentor across the globe, or embark on an entrepreneurial initiative. Whatever their passions might be, and as they fluctuate, chat about what tenacity entails, and how to stretch desires and capacities beyond the here-and-now. And, most importantly, show children that you’re tenacious, too, and that you’ll support them as they continue to broaden their experiences and advance their learning in myriad and exciting ways.

About the Author

Dr. Joanne Foster is an award-winning author who writes about child development and gifted education. Her most recent book is Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews, 2021). For more information, and for access to many articles and timely resources on children’s well-being, creativity, intelligence, productivity, and learning, go to www.joannefoster.ca.

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